Kim Novak, the star of Vertigo and other film classics, sat in a small boat Monday and watched as the former fishing lodge that had been her home and mementos of her life in Hollywood went up in flames.
Though the flames destroyed her personally annotated scripts from the Alfred Hitchcock classic Vertigo, and Picnic, as well as the computer on which she had been writing her autobiography, Novak, 67, said her dogs, horses, llamas and a family of orphaned Canada geese she had raised were spared.
“I take it personally as a sign my story should not be told,” Novak said of the book she has been working on for 10 years. “I read signs. Unfortunately, they have to be pretty heavy duty signs for me to recognize them.”
Fallen Tree Linked to Fire
The fire was apparently electrical, and probably linked to a tree falling across a power line the night before, said Deputy Fire Marshal Phil Cardinal. It moved quickly through the one-story woodframe house, apparently reflected inward by the metal roof.
Novak’s husband of 23 years, large-animal veterinarian Bob Murray, said a cottonwood had fallen across a power line the night before, and power company crews restored electricity about midnight.
The couple slept outside on a porch, and when they got up before 7 a.m. Monday, the power was off in the bathroom. Malloy said he switched a circuit breaker to restore power, and went into the kitchen to make coffee. Then a smoke alarm went off.
He went into the bedroom, where flames were coming from under the bed. He called to his wife, who was in her studio, to get out of the house. Within minutes, the flames had spread across the back of the house.
“I heard the smoke alarm and thought, ‘Those silly things that mean nothing,’” Novak said. “I looked out and saw all those flames.”
Back of House Wrecked
The fire sent up a column of smoke that was visible to firefighters rushing to the house.
Afterwards, the front of the house stood almost unharmed, but the back was a charred wreck, the metal roofing twisted and hanging into what used to be Novak’s bedroom and living room.
Novak said she got into a small boat in a slough of the Rogue River behind the house, both to comfort the young geese living there and to get a broader perspective on the fire. She regretted that she didn’t have her camera to record the spectacle.
“It said, ‘Don’t look back,’” she said of the fire.
Left Hollywood in the 1970s
A former model, Novak’s sex appeal and charisma launched her into stardom in the 1950s. Along with Vertigo and Picnic, she also starred in The Man With The Golden Arm before retiring from films in the 1970s.
Married for 23 years, Novak and Malloy left California for Oregon, where she had spent summers with her father as a child, and bought a ranch in the rural community of Chiloquin on the east side of the Cascade Range. They bought this house three years ago to be closer to the Rogue River. Novak named it Wingsong for the songbirds that flocked around it.
Faced with round logs and featuring a big stone fireplace, the house was built in about 1937 as a fishing lodge by the Bishop family of Monterey, Calif., and Novak and Malloy remodeled it extensively, said Malloy.
Wearing a cowboy hat and large sunglasses as she walked through the charred remains of her home, Novak stopped to look at a stained-glass window of an eagle she had designed.
She marveled that a painting she had done of her father and an old newspaper clipping about how she and Albert Einstein were favorites of visitors to the 1964 World’s Fair, had survived, while two paintings of her by artist Walter Keane had been destroyed.
Novak said this loss was easier to take than the loss of her home in Bel Air, Calif., to a mudslide in the 1960s, which carried off paintings by Picasso as well as her own work.
“That made me realize what was valuable,” she said.